There’s food all over your computer (hurry! go clean that up). We see sweet treats that would be good to eat on commercials, cooking shows, and even in virtual reality worlds and video games… and that’s not even counting all the food pics shared by friends, family, and total strangers on social media. Wouldn’t it be great to taste all those goodies? Wouldn’t it be even better if you could taste them without having to worry about gaining any of those nasty calories?
A team at National University of Singapore have created the Virtual Taste Simulator, which can reproduce the four well-known major taste components – salt, sweet, sour, bitter – by basically shocking your tongue.
It turns out that piece of flesh in your mouth is easily tricked, with taste receptors being fooled by a varying alternating current and slight changes in temperature controlled by semiconductor elements that heat and cool very rapidly. This electrical current is delivered through a silver electrode touching the tip of the tongue. The leader of the project admits the device “is a little clunky at the moment” but it will eventually be designed so that it can be on a person’s tongue while the person’s mouth is almost closed.
The simulator isn’t being worked on just because of all the cooking competitions on TV these days, either. The device is also expected to provide health benefits by allowing diabetics and dieters to taste the foods they crave without affecting their bodies in any adverse ways.
Work on the project continues, with the team working to add the fifth component, known as umami, as well as smell and texture to further enhance the virtual experience.